Sandigan clears last remaining defendant in P6-B Radstock case
MANILA — The Sandiganbayan has thrown out the graft case against the last remaining defendant involved in the Philippine National Construction Corp.’s anomalous P6.185-billion debt settlement in 2006.
In a 23-page resolution dated June 29, the court’s First Division granted the motion to dismiss filed by former PNCC board member Raymundo Francisco.
At the same time, the anti-graft court also denied the Office of the Ombudsman’s appeal on the April 7 resolution that let 12 of Francisco’s colleagues off the hook ahead of him.
The dismissal of the cases was based on the grounds of “inordinate delay” on the part of the Office of the Ombudsman, which the court said took more than six years before filing the charges on November 25, 2016.
Francisco was not spared from trial earlier because he did not seek the dismissal of his case at the same time as his former colleagues did from January to February. He only filed an urgent motion to dismiss on May 11.
Still, the court dismissed Francisco’s case because it “shares the same factual milieu with the respective cases” of the other PNCC officials.
Former PNCC president Luis Sison, who successfully petitioned the Supreme Court to nullify the August 2006 compromise agreement with Radstock Securities Ltd. in 2009, filed the complaint against the PNCC executives on Oct. 12, 2010.
However, the Ombudsman only directed Francisco to file his counter-affidavit on June 6, 2013. The resolution finding probable cause to indict him was issued on Dec. 12, 2014, but took almost two years before the case finally reached the Sandiganbayan.
The court said this was “unjustified and violated the accused’s [Francisco] right to speedy disposition of his case.”
Despite taking some time to resolve the complaint, the Ombudsman essentially echoed the contents of the Supreme Court’s 2009 ruling.
“Thus, this Court cannot reconcile why the [Ombudsman] needed to spend more than six years to conduct the preliminary investigation when it already possessed an advantage owing to the Supreme Court’s… decision,” the Sandiganbayan said.
Associate Justice Efren N. de la Cruz penned the decision, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Geraldine Faith A. Econg and Bernelito R. Fernandez.
Previously cleared in April were former board chairman Renato Valdecantos, president and chief executive officer Ma. Theresa Defensor, president and CEO Rolando Macasaet, and chief operating officer Arthur Aguilar.
Also cleared that month were Francisco’s fellow former board members Erwin Tanunliong, Hermogenes Concepcion Jr., Ottomama Benito, Enrique Cuejilo Jr., Roy Eduardo Lucero, Fermin Lusung Sr., Jeremy Parulan, and Antonio Villar.
On May 16, the Sandiganbayan also dismissed the case against former Government Corporate Counsel Agnes Devanadera, also on the ground of inordinate delay in the Ombudsman’s investigation.
The Radstock deal saw PNCC hand over P3.188-billion worth of government-owned real properties, a 20% share in the firm worth P713 million, and half of its 6% share in the gross toll revenue of the Manila North Tollways Corp., from 2008 to 2035, approximately valued at P1.287 billion.
Prosecutors claimed the PNCC’s assignment of “substantially all of its assets” in order to pay its obligations to Radstock was prejudicial to its other creditors, including the national government.
In the 2009 Supreme Court ruling, decision writer Antonio Carpio dubbed the agreement as “pillage of the public coffers that ranks among one of the most brazen and hideous in the history of this country.” SFM
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